A CEO’s Role in Cyber Security

Category: News
Published: 1st March 2023

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Cyber security can impact revenue, growth and customer satisfaction. Without a doubt, that makes it something that CEOs should be talking and thinking about.

Whilst it’s entirely possible for many businesses to now hire a senior leadership employee to manage and attempt to mitigate cyber threats, the problem of cyber security as a whole, is never very far from the CEO’s door. The reason for this is that cyber security is not just a bolt-on solution, it is a culture, an ethos, an agreement between stakeholders, a vision, a mission and let’s face it – an ever-evolving challenge.

The plan and sacrifices made to tackle it need buy-in and agreement from the bottom, right up to the very top of the business. That means the CEO needs a high-level view of the threat landscape and the business’ security posture to drive a security-first strategy.

But with so many other factors requiring attention, what should a CEOs cyber priorities be?

Below are the key aspects of security that we recommend a CEO should be focused on:


Protecting customers:

CEO’s have a duty of care to protect their customers’ data. In some industries, this will feel particularly crucial. When a breach is acknowledged, it is the CEO who is ultimately responsible for the threat posed to customers, shareholders and other stakeholders.

Ensuring digital trust and protecting brand integrity are crucial to business longevity. Data shows that a publicised breach has a negative impact on customer retention and perception. It is much easier to retain customers than to attract new ones and of course, potential prospects may also be discouraged by the event. This is clearly problematic for a CEO.


Balancing growth and security:

Technology’s impact on operational efficiency and productivity can be clearly evidenced, yet it is the senior leader’s role in the business to balance growing at speed and growing securely. The most effective businesses will be able to hit a sweet spot where neither growth nor security is too negatively impacted, and those businesses will likely have CEOs who are confident in synthesising the data that they are provided with to make decisions at pace in an evolving landscape. When CEOs have a firm grasp of why each decision is made, then they can convey their rationale to the board ensuring frictionless commercial strategizing between different sets of stakeholders.


Nurturing secure supply chains:

Many businesses rely on external suppliers and partners to operate effectively. Any cyber-attacks on a supply chain can deliver a real threat to commercial success. The most severe type of cyber-attack can impact multiple businesses just from a vulnerability in one part of the chain that shares systems, interfaces or data with others. Equally, if just one crucial supplier suffers a breach and is suddenly unable to deliver on expectations, the consequences could be catastrophic in terms of operational continuity.

Peer-to-peer, C-suite dialogue about security expectations and potential threats can achieve a more secure supply chain. Buyers are increasingly requiring their suppliers to conform to certain security standards in order to do business with them. This creates a more secure supply ecosystem. Businesses that have proactively protected themselves will be more attractive to suppliers than the competition. This advantage will help to retain existing clients, win new business, and open up opportunities to work with more partners.


Looking after the brand:

A data breach can result in the loss of personal and sensitive information of customers, which can cause a breach of trust between the brand and its customers. A company’s reputation and customer loyalty can suffer as a result of a cyber attack. Additionally, the increasing level of publicity around cyber incidents means that the damage caused by a breach can spread quickly and reach a wider audience. Social media and news outlets make it easier for consumers to share their experiences and opinions, which can further tarnish the reputation of the business.


Defining what security looks like:

No two businesses are the same, so why should security requirements be uniform across every business? To make the best use of budget and resources and optimise agility, it should be part of the CEO’s remit to agree with other stakeholders what security means specifically for their business. This can be defined by answering questions like:

  • What is our current threat exposure?
  • Do we have a security-conscious culture?
  • How strong is our recovery plan?
  • In which functions/areas should security be prioritised?
  • What is our risk appetite?
  • How does this impact our cyber-protection policies and plans?
  • How can we create a safe environment for R&D and collaboration?
  • Are we building a security infrastructure that will be too difficult or expensive for us to maintain as time progresses and attacks evolve?

Answering such questions can clarify how security should fit within and wrap around an organisation to best suit its objectives. If you would like a deep dive into other questions that should be considered to define your needs, we’re happy to help.